SO I STARTED MEDITATING…again.
Well, but of course, I have tried to regularly meditate before. It’s been an on and off lark for most of my life but I have never been successful in keeping it up longer than a few weeks. All going to plan, this time I will stick to it. I think I will, I have a new trick – I lie down.
Like most of us, I started a number new habits at the beginning of the year. One is walking everyday (which I have kept at to and am now doing 5k a day). Two, is eating way more Green food and way less processed food (tried Vegan last year and other than feeling ridiculous better than everyone else I didn’t actually feel any health benefits. In fact, once I went back to dairy and eggs I felt a lot better really quickly. Everyone’s mileage will vary etc.). Three… meditation.
Now, I would never put myself forward as an expert on anything and am not about to break that code with regard to meditation. I have a good solid technical knowledge of meditation but not a lot of hands on experience. I could talk to you about lots of different techniques, ideas and historical background but it would just be talk. I was very much an Armchair meditator, who couldn’t even get to the armchair. This is the year I plan to remedy that.
Early last year was probably my most successful attempt at consistent meditation. I had become a little too obsessed with Zen and was trying my best at a daily Zazen practice. Zazen is the sitting practice of Zen. Basically you sit on the ground (lotus legs if you can), keep your back straight and you stare at the wall in front of you. Yup, it’s eyes open folks.
I had a timer set up and I started off just doing ten minutes. Man, those ten minutes seemed like hours. I was reading a lot of Brad Warner at the time and he would talk about doing silent zazen meditation retreats for days and all I could think was: “Dude, I can’t do 10 minutes”. I managed to get up to about 15 minutes a day but I really wasn’t enjoying it. I would dread the thoughts of it everyday and it was beginning to put me in bad form. When I would finish the zazen I would be in worse mood than when I started. I plodded along for a few months but I was getting nowhere.
It just wasn’t good.
Or at least, zazen wasn’t good for me. And that is what I realised about meditation recently. There are so many different ways that you can meditate that it is important to try out a few different ways to see which one works for you. The problem is that you will at some point have to pick one and just stick with it even if you start to get restless. That will happen with any practice and constant switching of method is probably a good way of making sure you don’t progress at the rate you should. So spend a few days doing different methods and then pick one and go for it.
I knew after day one that Zazen wasn’t for me, but I was all about the Zen at the time and I struggled on. I failed. Had I just lay down rather than sit up I reckon I would have stuck to it. Lying down 20 minutes seems like a breeze.
Now, before anyone starts screaming you shouldn’t lie down to meditate, I say hush now, I’ll do as I please. Yes, you are more in danger of falling asleep, but I don’t so there’s that. Lying down, I get into a much more deep relaxed state than sitting up. Crowley reckons you should be able to sit in any weird or difficult posture and keep focused but Crowley could do a lot of things that I can’t. Yet, I shouldn’t dismiss his point. My posture, pain, dis-ease, discomfort etc. shouldn’t dictate my thoughts but personally I’ll have to learn that lesson without playing meditation twister.
Why? Well you see, the reason I picked walking as my form of exercise rather than jogging is that the probability of me walking consistently every day is much, much higher than the likelihood of me jogging for more than a fortnight. I tried jogging before – I hated it. I love walking. I enjoy walking. So which is more likely for me to do: something I hate or something I enjoy? Jogging may (or may not depends on the article you read) be much a much better form of exercise but it’s not much good to me if I don’t do it.
So I lie down to meditate because I enjoy it and because I know if I try sitting again I won’t keep at it. Sitting in the lotus position (even though I was always able to do it, even as a child) is annoying. Besides, Stuart Wilde use to meditate lying down and if it’s good enough of old Stu it’s good enough for me.
Speaking of Stuart Wilde, he was the reason, more or less, why I got into the whole occult or esoteric end of things. I met him once. About 10 or 15 of us sat round the statue in the Square in Glastonbury and talked all things Fringe-Dweller. Amazing night. He actually talks about it in one of his audio lectures. If you don’t know Stu, check out some of his early books. He got into real heavy doom-porn at the end of his life and probably better to meet the happy, funny, gentleman-jester Stu first. Read Infinite Self maybe.
SO HOW DO YOU MEDITATE THEN?
The thing that used to make meditation hard for me was the notion that you were meant Not To Think. Mediation, it was stated by those who knew, was the process where you stopped your thoughts and emptied or quietened the mind. The problem with that description is that it puts you into a wrestling match with your mind and makes the whole experience quite a bit more difficult that it should be.
The twist is that you aren’t meant to stop yourself thinking or having thoughts. It’s more that you just don’t engage with the thoughts that come to mind. Fighting thoughts may mean you keep thinking about jam, followed by remembering that you have to stop thinking about jam, and then you notice that you are thinking about, not thinking about, thinking about jam. Any wonder meditation would put me in a bad mood. I don’t even like jam.
No, what I find (and others, I didn’t come up with this stuff, there was a guy call Gautama who knew a bit too) is that you allow all the thoughts arise in your mind but you give them no heed. Now, there is a fine line here. I didn’t use the word ignore because to ignore someone or something implies that you are making a deliberate effort to pretend that it isn’t there. So, we not looking for that. We are looking to not engage, or not give any focus, attention or any reaction whatsoever to the thoughts. Don’t continue thinking about them. If you start thinking about Jam, don’t try to smash the thought or push it away or worse give out to your brain for thinking (that what it does after all). No, just don’t do anything. The jam thought will just move along.
Until this happens to you for the first time, you probably won’t understand exactly what I am saying. If you find that you mind is going crazy and you can’t let it all go, try counting your breaths. Count to 4 or 10 and start again. Of course you could always go for the The Abramovic Method Practiced by Lady Gaga (Warning NSFW).
BUT WHY MEDITATE? WHAT’S THE POINT?
I have wanted to have a regular meditation practice ever since I read all the Stuart Wilde books as a teenager. Old Stu made meditation exciting by talking of his trips up the near-death tubes and getting great insights and messages from the etheric worlds. It all sounded like a wonderful, amazing journey. Why did I try harder to get in on this excitement? Well, mediation is hard. If you haven’t done it you couldn’t possibly understand why sitting or lying down doing nothing is one of the hardest things to ever do in this world, but it really is.
From a Magick perspective meditation will help greatly. It will improve your concentration, it will improve your attainment of Gnosis, it will chill you out and make you see things about your self that have been hindering your Magick work for years, it will reveal things about you that you didn’t even know existed. All areas of your magick practice will be improved.
Apart from any mystical benefits you may get, meditation is basically good- for- everything- – creativity, calmness, physical health, concentration, just name it. Anything you can think of meditation pretty much helps with it. Obviously it’s not a cure or all or a magick pill but it has proven benefits when used as a daily practice.
Here’s a video from Richard Davidson, a real, proper, skeptic approved science dude, who has been studying meditation for yonks. Watch any documentary on meditation or new age health and this is the guy who will pop up in the middle.
Near-death tubes and meeting higher beings aside, I am hoping to increase my calmness, creativity and sense of centeredness with my meditation practice. I love the idea of meditation as a little holiday you take away from the real world everyday. But it’s a working holiday. We’re here to learn, not get a tan.
I am enjoying meditating, which is the first time I can ever say that and maybe it not just that I am now lying down to do it, maybe the timing is right. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it until now.
Maybe 2015 is my year of the Big Meditation.